At some point in my life I began to down play the importance of personal possessions.
Don’t get me wrong – I like to have nice stuff as much as the next person, and I’m certainly willing to put in the necessary work in order to attain them for myself and my family. Flat screen TVs and cars and houses and boats and vacations and on and on all cost money, and money is acquired through hard work. Having said that, I’ve been resistant to the standard that the accumulation of personal possessions is a barometer of success. After all, who’s the richer man: a guy who lives well within is means in a small two-bedroom house he owns outright, or the guy with a million dollar condo for which the mortgage payments barely suit his salary & net worth? Honestly, the answer probably depends on your perspective. But generally, I’ve found that the people who find contentment in what they have are usually also the happiest, no matter where their life’s collection of worldly possessions lands them in the scale of superficial social hierarchy.
The inspiration for this blog post comes from two things; a scene from the popular HBO series ‘True Blood‘, which is a drama in it’s sixth season about vampires coexisting in society with humans; and an incident that occurred just yesterday.
From the TV show, there is a scene during an episode from the latest season involving a yuppie-type young woman and Tara, a main character who had recently been turned into a vampire. During a heated exchange, she utters a line in a condescending manner to the effect of “Well. I don’t live in the past, Tara, I live in the present. In a four-bedroom house. With a BMW in the garage. So enjoy your little job, barkeep!” I don’t want to post spoilers, but suffice it to say Tara gets her bloody revenge.
I know I know. It’s just a TV show. But after watching that character boast in such a way – it immediately hit me that I live in a four-bedroom house and I own a BMW, which is parked in my garage as we speak. It was a strange realization to think that my possessions might define who I am as a person in the eyes of some people, even though I certainly don’t see things that way myself.
The other thing – that which occurred yesterday afternoon – also involves my car. I went to Meijer (a grocery/department store chain with about 200 stores throughout the Midwest) to stock up on supplies for an upcoming family vacation. Out of habit, I always park near a cart corral* so it’s easy to get rid of the cart and take off after unloading my purchases.
Well I came out of the store to find this dirty, banged-up Chevy Venture minivan parked cock-eyed, egregiously straddling the yellow-painted line on the asphalt – about three inches from the driver side of my car. There was literally about six feet of space between the driver side of the van and the car parked to its immediate left. While it’s possible that person is the world’s worst driver or is so large that they needed the extra yard of space to exit their vehicle, it’s probable they have passive-aggressive jealousy issues. While I can’t say for sure, I am presuming the latter is the more likely case.
I was irritated for sure, and I stood there in the parking lot for about 30 seconds after unloading my groceries undecided as to what to do. Just as I was crafting the perfect dialogue of insults in my mind for whenever this the idiot came out of the store, the driver of the car parked directly across from me appeared, unloaded her purchases and backed out of her parking spot, leaving me an easy escape route out of my predicament. Other than having to climb into my car through the passenger side, I really wasn’t inconvenienced at all.
*In case you’re unfamiliar, cart corrals are tubular structures placed throughout the parking lot for customers to leave their carts after they’re done with them.
As I drove away, a couple things occurred to me. I was still irritated – and more than a little perturbed that I didn’t get the chance to confront this person for their apparent act of passive-aggressive vitriol. But then I realized that simply getting in my car and driving away was the perfect revenge. They didn’t get the satisfaction of knowing how mad they’d made me, or how I felt like a nimrod as I climbed into my little sedan through the passenger door, or that I had to sit there and wait for someone else to show up so I could pull out safely. They came out to find an empty parking spot, since (unless they’re driving a Moped) no one would dare try to squeeze between their piece-of-shit van and the cart corral. I’ve known for a long time that living well is the best revenge, but I guess I needed a reminder.
The irony of all this is that I’m not rich – nor am I trying to present an image of being so. I didn’t buy the car as a status symbol – I bought it because I liked it and I wanted something relatively inexpensive that would hold it’s value. Did I mention that my BMW is 10 years old with over 100,000 miles on it? Did I mention that it wasn’t exactly new or even close to new when I bought it? Did I mention that my ‘four-bedroom house with a garage‘ is on a postage stamp sized piece of property in the city? These are all things that I am happy with for now – but I will upgrade them eventually through hard work.
It’s sad really – I like to think that the vast majority of people I encounter would agree that I tend to treat people well consistently regardless of their perceived social-economic status. But I guess there will always be jealous people. I don’t intentionally put myself above others and I usually am quite polite. Aside from the respect you usually receive from people when you give it first, you never know who might just turn out to be an ally. Plus, no one wants to get eaten by a vampire. So there’s that, too.